The other day, my son came running into the house yelling, “We just saw the first garter snake of the season!” Every year I dread the first sighting, and this year it seems early. I’m facing a long snake season ahead.
I hate snakes. I have hated snakes as long as I can remember. I have tried to like them. Honestly, I have. In my twenties, I had a friend with a pet snake named Leroy. I tried to make myself like it. I watched everyone else pet it. I had to breathe deeply to keep from having an anxiety attack. I don’t want my kids to share my irrational fear of garter snakes. How do I stop myself from sharing my fear when every time we see one I scream?
The day after my son shared his exciting news with me, our contractor was about to hop into the crawl space and went eye-to-eye with one. He hates snakes as much as I do. We commiserated and shared snake stories for a while before I realized that I’m paying him to talk to me about snake hate. I made some lame excuse and darted back into the house.
I know that garter snakes are good. They keep the rodent population low and they’re harmless. They’re food for the foxes that roam the neighborhood. There’s no reason for me to freak out every time I see one. This year, I’m going to try to make the garter snake my totem. In college, I spent a summer participating in a field study in the Canadian Rockies. I was terrified of having a run-in with a grizzly (we lived in tents). My professor told me to make them my totem (after he refused to let me sleep in the van).
I went a little bear crazy after that. I bought a sterling silver bear necklace and wore it all the time. I even got a small bear tattoo. While I’m probably not going to wear a snake necklace (no need to cause speculation among the neighbors) or get a garter snake tattoo, I am going to try to find the beauty in these helpful creatures. I don’t want my kids to be scared to play in the yard because I’ve taught them that garters are frightening. At the very least, I’m going to try not to scream when I see one.